Malaysian organisations “should adopt zero tolerance approach to harassment"

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 13 Jan 2016

Employers have an interest in creating a positive and safe culture, says tripartite group

Organisations in Malaysia should adopt a zero tolerance approach to harassment, according to a new guide issued on the subject.
 
The Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment has been jointly issued by the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF). It places responsibility for a safe and harassment-free workplace on the employer as much as the employee, and offers comprehensive advice on how organisations can proactively prevent such incidents.
 
The guide states that: “Both employers and employees have an interest and responsibility in preventing harassment at the workplace and managing it properly if it happens.”
 
It goes on to highlight the different forms that harassment can take, from threatening, abusive or insulting language to cyber bullying, sexual harassment and stalking.
 
Myths surrounding harassment are dispelled, such as the idea that “workplace harassment is a matter of personal relationships; and not for employers to intervene.” In this instance, it advises: “Employers have an interest to create a positive and safe culture where all employees can perform their best at work.”
 
The financial value of avoiding workplace harassment cases is also highlighted by tackling the idea that preventative measures are costly and don’t make a difference. “Affected persons who do not have access to recourse and assistance may suffer distress, underperform or even resign abruptly. Harassment cases that are poorly managed may also lead to conflicts that undermine the cohesion of the workplace.”
 
The employer’s role in establishing the culture of an organisation is crucial, and core values of mutual respect, empathy and cultural understanding are suggested as an ideal basis for a harmonious workplace.
 
In most organisations, responsibility for organising and implementing policy on harassment will fall to the HR department and the guide offers three practical preventative steps: develop a harassment prevention policy; provide information and training on workplace harassment; and implement reporting and response procedures.
 
The installation of CCTV at work is one solution that may make employees feel safer, although such action can be at odds with employees feeling trusted.
 
The advice offered in the guide is based on law, as it conforms to the Protection from Harassment Act, which was passed by the Malaysian Parliament in 2014.